Is your dealership interesting? Rejoice in being different.

The Dutch have a word I really like — though I can’t pronounce it — gezelligheid. It means, “the pursuit of small pleasures.” This pursuit is the reason I became a “Boat Yard Junkie.” Even after 20 years in the business, I haven’t lost the leisure time habits that go back nearly three times that long. I like the sights, smells, sounds and most everything else extant when people are “messing around in boats.” I’m probably not all that different from a fair share of the folks that drop in at your dealership.
We are pursuing small pleasures. We may also buy a boat if we get swept up in the pursuit. In any case, it behooves all dealers (and boatyards and marinas) to make the customer’s visit pleasantly memorable. The automobile industry is much worse at this than we are. I recently visited a number of car dealers — online and in person — with the idea of blowing some of the proceeds from the recent sale of my dealership on a new car. Mostly I felt that I was being processed for packaging in the dealership’s idea of what a customer ought to be. The fact that I wanted to order my exact specification from the factory and needed some intelligent, quality time discussing options soon put me in a class hardly worth fooling with.
Most buyers are going to visit more than one dealership. Yours needs to stand out as an oasis of interest and knowledge. One sour employee with an attitude can pretty much negate all your good intentions. A variety of interesting and unusual sidelights to your operation can hold the gezelligheider’s interest and increase his customer potential. The following have worked for some dealerships:
1. Gift items in your ship’s store. This gives the customer a more frequent excuse to stop by and the boss may even come with him. Why else would he drop in on your store just before Christmas?
2. A junk table for items too good to throw away but used or odd enough that full price is only a futile dream. Your junk, because it is marine junk, is definitely someone else’s treasure. The recycling is cool, anyway.
3. Easy access to new and used boats — even for those with more years on their athleticism than they like. I think the practice of demanding all shoes off before boarding is an enthusiasm killer. Settle for eliminating hard soles and high heels. If your boats can’t stand up under boat shoes, they are pretty crummy to begin with and you need a new line. After all, in the unlikely event a mishap does happen, can’t you fix it? If you can’t, you have more than sales problems. We always let on all comers and never needed a significant repair. Customers seemed to appreciate our confidence in the product’s ruggedness.
4. Structure the sale to suit your customer. If he wants to trade in a motor scooter or take delivery on a Sunday at 6 a.m., he is right because he is the customer. Besides, I had a whale of a good time on that little Honda scooter — until she who must be obeyed said to knock it off and act my age.
5. Keep some coloring books and crayons, preferably ones featuring boats, to give the kids. If they are coloring, mom and dad can concentrate on your learned discourse and sure fire closing lines. If distracted, they won’t buy much no matter how good your pitch is.
6. Feature a greeter with an attractive personality. Attractive in general doesn’t hurt either, though it’s less necessary. “You only get one chance to make a good first impression” is still true.
7. An honor system lending library. You would be amazed how many books come flooding in from customers and even employees eager to reclaim the bookshelf space. Your only problem is that you lose some semi-valuable display space — you certainly wouldn’t devote prime shelves. It does keep uninvolved spouses and even older kids happy. If they start a book, give it to them to take home. There’s no end to the re-supply.
Try some of these or more creative ideas that make your dealership stand out in a friendly way and maybe I’ll be one of those browsers. I just can’t resist stopping at an interesting looking dealership. If you have better luck, it may be your next boat customer. The November MRAA Convention is likely to afford numerous possibilities, particularly if you network.

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